SEATTLE — Mariners rookie Roenis Elias has flashed signs of brilliance in the first two months of his major league career.
A strong fastball. A big, bending curveball that can buckle hitters at the knees.
Against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Elias put the entire package together against one of the league’s strongest lineups. The 25-year-old left-hander from Cuba kept Detroit off balance in throwing a three-hitter, pitching Seattle to a 4-0 win.
Elias (4-4) struck out eight and walked one in his 12th major league start, and the first one to last longer than seven innings. Elias is the first Mariners rookie to record a shutout since Freddy Garcia on Aug. 24, 1999, against the Tigers.
“He had all his secondary stuff,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought his changeup was exceptional. He kept the fastball down for the most part. Pitched in and out. The curveball was good as well but I thought the changeup was the equalizer today.”
Heading to the mound for the ninth inning, Elias had to face the heart of Detroit’s lineup in Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. All three hitters are hitting over .300 and were facing Elias for the fourth time in the game, but he made quick work of the trio to close out the victory.
“I didn’t think there was much that would affect this guy as far as nerves were concerned given his situation and where he came from,” McClendon said. “He didn’t disappoint. He just went out and did his job.
Elias recorded five of his eight strikeouts with the curveball.
“When he keeps (the curveball) in the zone and guys have to respect it as a strike and then he can use it as a put-away pitch, that’s when it’s really working well for him,” catcher Mike Zunino said.
The Tigers only moved one runner in scoring position, and Elias matched a career high with 111 pitches.
“I was told that to have success (in the majors) you have to have command of three pitches,” Elias said through a translator. “The curveball, the changeup and the fastball were all working today.”
Elias threw the first complete game shutout for Seattle since Aaron Harang on June 11, 2013, in a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros. Elias said it was only his second career complete game, the other coming in Single-A.
The Tigers were shut out for the third time this season and second time on their current road trip. The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 14 games.
“He had a good curveball with a good down angle. It’s tough to square up on,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
“It was just one of those days where we made quick, easy outs and didn’t really put up much of a fight.
Max Scherzer (6-2) gave up four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. In his last three outings, he has allowed 16 earned runs with a 7.32 ERA. His ERA for the year has climbed to 3.20.
“They did a good job hitting some pitches that were up and capitalized on some off-speed mistakes that sailed up in the zone,” Scherzer said.
Endy Chavez hit a leadoff double in the Seattle first and Michael Saunders doubled for a 1-0 lead.
Willie Bloomquist and Chavez each singled in the third, putting runners at the corners with no outs. James Jones flied out, Saunders struck out and Bloomquist was thrown out at home plate on a double steal attempt.
In the fifth, Dustin Ackley led off with a single and swiped second base. Bloomquist hit an RBI double and James singled home a run.
Brad Miller homered off Scherzer in the seventh.
NOTES: Seattle 2B Robinson Cano was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game. He is day to day while dealing with a bone bruise on his left hand. … Jones was removed from the game for precautionary reasons in the eighth with tightness in his left groin. He was replaced defensively by Cole Gillespie. … Detroit C Bryan Holaday has thrown out just two of 10 runners who have tried to steal against him. Ackley and Jones both stole bases in the fifth inning for Seattle. … Seattle SS Miller homered for the first time since April 11 against Oakland, his fourth on the year.